The Gulag was Stalin, Not Soviet

This past week I finished reading the book Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize winning effort. I found this book compelling with its first-hand accounts of the brutal and deadly conditions some 8 million Soviet citizens experienced as they passed through the Gulag system over the decades. And I found no problem with the book except for a couple of points.

First, she equates the concentration camps of Lenin and Trotsky to what the phenomenon later became under Stalin. Camps were in existence during the Russian Revolution, and Lenin did express the thought that maybe kulaks (rich, land owning peasants) and former White Army officers could use a good lesson in hard, manual labor. But those early concentration camps are nothing like the true Gulags under Stalin. Applebaum even relates this fact in the introductory portion of the book. But she should have realized that Stalin is the real monster here, not Lenin and Trotsky.

Second, Applebaum asks why so many memorialize and lionize the old Soviet system with the Gulags as part of its history. She even condemns Russia’s experiment in a radical leftist ideology with the belief that the Gulag was inherent in the Communist system. She further equates the Gulag system with the German death-camps of the Nazi’s. Some far leftists will wear a hammer and sickle t-shirt, but no one would almost never, where a shirt with a swastika on it, she argues.

Now I admit that the two can be equated, and, in my opinion, they both possessed the same level of brutality which I cannot believe ever took place in as late of a period as the 20th century. But the goal of exterminating the Jews and other minority groups in the 30’s and 40’s was a major tenet of the Nazi ideology. The Gulag system was just a deformed system of punishment used by a totalitarian government. The Soviets did not want any group of people to suffer and die in Gulags. It was just the form of punishment Stalin desired as a result of his uncontrollable paranoia and its brutal crackdowns. In the introduction Applebaum even covers the fact that labor camps for criminals were a part of Czarist Russia. It seems that the concentration camp, not the suffering, was Russian, not Soviet. And a strict form of genocide was not a truly cut out goal of the Gulag system.

In conclusion, after reading this book my belief that Stalin was one of history’s greatest monsters is confirmed, and I still refuse to express my belief in a Marxist system with Stalin’s words or image. But on the other hand, I have no problem with the use of Lenin, Marx and Engels, and the hammer and sickle emblem. They are not inherently related to the. Marx never wrote, “There is a specter haunting Europe, and let there be Gulags.”

I still recommend this book.

American Childcare System: A National Disgrace

A quick post today:

One of the major obstacles challenging unemployed single parents today who are entering/reentering the American work force is the non affordability of quality childcare. If you are single, or have a stay-at-home spouse, you may not be aware how costly it is for the average American. So here’s 11 statistics from In These Times that put the non affordability of childcare in perspective:

$9,600 – Average annual cost of childcare nationwide, per child, in 2017

55% – People who said childcare costs were a significant financial challenge in 2018

33% – Parents who went into debt to pay for summer childcare in 2018

51% – People living in “childcare deserts” (areas with three times more children than

licensed childcare slots) in 2017

19 – States whose childcare assistance programs had waitlists or frozen intake in 2018

67% – Children who have all available parents working outside the industry home as of 2017

16% – Private-industry employees who had access to paid family leave in 2018

37% – Average portion of annual income that single parents spend on childcare

7% – Recommended portion of annual income to be spent on childcare, according to the Department of Health and Human Services

18.3% – Mothers with children ages 3 and younger working outside the home for a median wage of $10.50 or less in 2016

$23,240 – Median annual income for childcare workers in 2018

Don’t Be Distracted by This Bourgeois Drama!

If you have been paying attention to the mainstream media over the last week or two you know that the usual outlets are running around with their hair on fire over Pres. Trump getting dirt on Joe Biden from the Ukrainian government. Now with all the evidence I have seen and read, it’s almost undeniable that Trump is guilty of what he is accused of.

That said, the GOP is now busy attacking the non-Rupert Murdoch owned media outlets of being part of a larger deep state conspiracy against Trump and the Right-wing, in general. And, of course, the progressives refute this argument saying FOX News and their print and online cronies are serving as “state media” in the service of the present administration.

Now this is a great soap opera for all of us to watch (I am guilty, too). But it’s sucking up all the oxygen in the mass media coverage of the world. What needs to be covered by the mainstream press is even being pushed further to the margins. This infighting between bourgeois puppets should not be covered. The real story is socio-economic status conflicts all but ignored by the bourgeois media.

I know that before this latest row the mainstream press has never given the proper coverage to the issues that really matter. I’m talking about issues from the astronomical prices of prescription drugs here in the U.S. to the effects of neoliberal policies on the Third World.

The essence of my argument is that the mainstream/bourgeois media currently have a godsend in the form of a juicy drama between bourgeois actors in a bourgeois arena. But it would be completely outside of that arena for CNN or MSNBC to cover issues in the interest of the people.

All this media coverage is drama, not important news to us. Don’t let it fool you. Keep your eye on the prize: media serving the interests of the working class. The rest is just games.

Making a Comeback!

Comrades, just had a career change and hope to resume posting very soon. It may only be once a week, but I’ll make it happen.

In Solidarity

6 New STL Images!

Sorry that it’s a day late (capitalism is killing me), but here are 6 new propaganda images for spreading revolution wherever one sees fit.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59

Smashing Capitalism, Not Fancy Measures

In the “Broken Capitalism” series being published over at The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/01/broken-capitalism-economy-americans-fix?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other, Heather Boushey argues that the way academics measure economic growth is outdated and doesn’t show the full picture of the wealth gap between the 1% and the rest of us. Here’s her argument:

GDP used to be a good indicator of national income. If GDP rose 2%, most gained 2% across the board. But due to the current economic separation between the 1% and the 99%, simple GDP is no longer a valid measuring tool. Boushey gives us this example:

Take 2014. While aggregate national income grew by 2.3%, after taxes and government transfer programs such as supplemental nutrition assistance, incomes for those in the bottom 90% grew by less than the average – 1.5% – while those in the top 1% saw their income grow by twice the average – about 5%.

She then argues for a new disaggregate measure made up of national income and product accounts with data from surveys and administrative sources to clear the picture. This would not only produce more representative ratios between the rich and poor, but also between race, gender, and age

That’s a great idea, but it does not get to the question of what is to be done.

Boushey offers that better published numbers will make the masses more aware of the economic canyon between those of the top SES and the rest of us:

Better, fairer growth measures are a vital step towards better, fairer growth. A clearer picture of the disconnect between overall growth and worker welfare will force a deeper examination of what’s gone wrong with the capitalist engine

Boushey goes on to argue that these new measures will give more power to the people enabling unions to rise. But that is not what I take issue with here.

I am arguing that better tools for showing the income gap between rich and poor will not fuel the smashing of capitalism. The proletariat is not concerned with new academic information to show how poor they are. What they are concerned with is putting food on the table. This is why “Peace, Land, Bread” was so effective in 1917. Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn’t lay out Marx’s material dialectic to the masses as a way to spark them to action. Not in the slightest. They got down to the brass tacks of what ailed the Russian workers and peasants at the time: the end of participation in WWI, land redistribution, and food for their families.

I am not arguing against Boushey’s proposal of how to better measure the income gap among in American society. Her methods show who is making all the money (the 1%) while the vast majority (the 99%) receive so little. Great! I love it! But don’t fool your bourgeois self into thinking that fancy numbers will serve as a catalyst for real social change, Ms. Boushey. The masses could never understand this measurement with more than a 100 years of educational development and the destruction of media power.

A “clearer picture” of the math of inequality is definitely valuable among the academy. But to the masses, it means very little. They do not understand nor are concerned with such matters. They know they are working harder to make less as they fall further and further behind. This how you fix broken capitalism. Peace, land, bread, not disaggregate GDP measures.

5 New STL Images!

Five new pics for propaganda use (a day late). Thanks!!!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59

10 Reasons We Need Medicare-For-All as a Human Right

An article from In These Times lists 10 stats showing why Medicare-for-All would provide and protect a human right. As you know, healthcare is currently going unaddressed under capitalism.

28,300,000 – People uninsured in the United States in the first quarter of 2018.

530,000 – Estimated number of families who file bankruptcy each year due to medical issues and bills

44% – Americans who didn’t go to a doctor when they were sick or injured because of cost, according

34% – Cancer patients who borrowed money from friends or family to pay for care in 2016

79% – Increased death rate for cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy in 2016

$75,375 – Cost of a heart bypass operation in 2016 in the U.S.

$15,742 – Cost of a heart bypass operation in 2016 in the Netherlands

$1,443 – U.S. per capita spending on pharmaceutical costs in 2016, the highest in the world

840% – Increase in spending for insulin from 2007 to 2017 on Medicare Part D (Medicare’s prescription drug plan)

$5,110,000,000,000 – Estimated 10-year cost savings of the single-payer healthcare system proposed in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act

SMASH CAPITALISM NOW!

Cory Booker and The Danger of Reformism

Cory Booker is a US senator from New Jersey and a Democratic presidential candidate. On April 24, 2019, an op-ed piece penned by Sen. Booker was posted on The Guardian’s website as a part of their Broken Capitalism series. Booker’s piece is entitled, Workers are Creating Massive Wealth. Why are Corporations Hoarding it All?, followed by the subtitle, Our Economy Works Best When No One is Left on the Sidelines. Now let’s look inside.

Booker supplies a few anecdotes throughout the piece that are tragic and show the crushing effects of capitalism, like this one story of a woman named Carol Ruiz:

Every day Carol Ruiz wakes up at 3.30am and goes to an airline catering service at Newark airport, where she helps prepare the food carts that flight attendants push up and down the aisle…. At the end of her 40-hour week she takes home $345. The average airline CEO makes that amount in about 20 minutes.

 Last year, while Carol was undergoing treatment for cancer, her kids and husband went without health insurance so the family could afford her medical bills…

He then follows most of the stories with statements like these:

Workers are increasingly stuck in an “I win, you lose” economy, a zero-sum game in which those in power relentlessly pull out the rungs of the ladder behind them, ensuring that opportunity is limited solely to those who already have it.

Booker than goes over other aspects of the cruel capitalist system and how it hurts the working class in the form of corporations using intermediary contracted workers which keeps wages down, stock buy-backs by companies using Trump tax cut-gained funds to enrich stock owners, and the unfairness of non-compete agreements between employees and employers at low-wage jobs.

So here is Mr. Booker’s sort-of solutions:

There’s no silver bullet, but we can start by making it easier to join a union, giving workers the ability to fight corporate power with power of their own. Second, we must reinvigorate our tepid antitrust agencies, which have long-served corporate interests at the expense of workers. We should also restrict anticompetitive practices like non-compete agreements and “no-poach” clauses and maintain strong rules that hold parent companies more accountable for outsourced employees. And we should crack down on the proliferation of corporate stock buy-backs, or, at the very least ensure that if a corporation buys back stock to increase shareholder value, workers are cut in on the action.

Great, right?

What Booker and other liberals are guilty of is in taking half-measures and falling into the trap of reformism. They want to change society, as they call it, and spew enough fake promises to the masses in order to get enough votes to take office. They want to usurp any momentum by the people.

They want to maintain the current capitalist system while offering crumbs to the workers that often don’t end up even falling from the table. There are enough GOP members and right leaning Dems to halt any of these reforms before they are out of committee. These goals are merely “pony promises” in today’s system.

What we need is true, far leftist change. We need to smash capitalism and found a new system not based on greed and inequality. The point is to make real change, not reform. A radical left remake is the true answer to address these economic and social injustices.

5 New STL Images!

Five new pics for propaganda. Sorry for my late post!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59